Cristiano Ronaldo is unquestionably one of the greatest footballers of all time.
The legendary Portuguese forward has won five Ballon d’Or awards during his illustrious career, scored an extraordinary number of goals and won titles with major clubs in England, Spain and Italy.
Oh, and he also helped Portugal win Euro 2016.
Ronaldo deserves all the credit in the world for maximising his potential through sheer hard work and dedication to his profession.
And for many aspiring footballers all over the globe, Ronaldo is their footballing idol.
Ronaldo, who turns 36 in February, has also inspired some of football’s current superstars - including Kylian Mbappe.
During Sunday’s UEFA Nations League clash between France and Portugal, Ronaldo and Mbappe shared a lovely moment at half-time.
And after the match, Mbappe tweeted the word “Idol” alongside the crown and goat emojis in a direct message to his hero.
But Mbappe isn’t the only current star to openly admit that Ronaldo is his idol.
Let’s take look at some others…
Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland is one of the best young forwards on the planet - but the Norwegian said he may not have become a footballer if it wasn’t for Ronaldo. That’s according to the man himself.
"I would love to meet him and tell him that I am a footballer thanks to him,” the 20-year-old told reporters earlier this year. “For me, he was always a role model.”
You only have to look at Marcus Rashford’s free-kick technique to realise that the Manchester United forward grew up watching Ronaldo.
“For me there is no bigger inspiration in football," he told Man Utd’s official website in 2018.
"I could speak for a lot of young players and United fans that watched the team when he was here and the majority of us have followed him as he’s moved on in his career and that’s what's special about United.”
Rashford added: ”The way he’s sustained his career and even improved year on year is just amazing.
“People don’t do that at his age, people are usually heading towards the end of their career and their level starts going down a little bit, but he’s just gone up and up and up."
In the same year, Ronaldo sent Rashford a signed Real Madrid shirt with the words “To Marcus. Keep up the good work” written on the back. Class.
Matthijs de Ligt
Matthijs de Ligt used to pretend he was Ronaldo while playing football with his mates in the garden. And in 2019, the Dutch defender became teammates with his hero after leaving Ajax for Juventus.
“We came to the conclusion that I always wanted to be Cristiano Ronaldo when we were playing football in the garden,” De Ligt told Dutch magazine VI, per talkSPORT. “That was especially in his time when he played at Manchester United.
“My first football shirt also belonged to him from that time.”
“Cristiano is my childhood idol, he is an example in everything for me,” Felix told Record in 2019. “I was still a child and he was already the best player in the world. He is unique.
“He is making football history. I loved it when he said I was a phenomenon.”
The Atletico Madrid youngster added: “People always ask me if I can reach Cristiano’s level and I always tell them the same thing.
“Cristiano is unique and irreplaceable. All I want is to be Joao Felix.”
Leicester City star James Maddison supported Manchester United as a boy and still prefers Ronaldo to Lionel Messi even now.
“My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo; I always looked up to him because when I was younger I was more of a Man United fan – my first memory was them beating Bayern Munich and my dad running around the table with me,” the attacking midfielder told the Coventry Telegraph, per Tribuna.com, in 2015.
Harry Kane might be a seasoned professional in his own right, but the Tottenham and England star is eight years younger than Ronaldo and watched the world-class forward closely during his teenage years.
“I asked for his shirt,” Kane said after a Champions League clash between Real Madrid and Tottenham in 2017. “He's a big role model of mine, watching him when I was growing up.
“It's a nice shirt to get and frame. I gave him my shirt. I don't know what he'll do with it.”
Ronaldo watched on proudly at the Bernabeu in March 2020 as Vinicius Jr scored for Real Madrid against Barcelona and then produced his idol’s trademark ‘Siiiiu!’ celebration.
Vinicius later confirmed on Instagram that Ronaldo was indeed his idol.
Chelsea star Mason Mount, like many youngsters, spent hours trying to replicate Ronaldo’s free-kick technique during his childhood.
But as this superb video shows, Mount perfected Ronaldo’s technique better than most kids his age.
Arsenal starlet Gabriel Martinelli also grew up full of admiration for Ronaldo.
“My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo,” the Brazilian was quoted saying by Goal in 2020. “I admire him very much for the strength of will he has, for the way he works and for everything ... for the individual and collective awards he earns.
“He is a guy who does not conform, he always wants more. That is what I want for myself: to always be conquering things. He is a great example of that.”
During his Liverpool spell, Raheem Sterling admitted that Man Utd legend Ronaldo was one of his heroes.
“I really look up to Cristiano Ronaldo,” the winger told The Mirror in 2014, “he is someone that has always been an idol to me...but I’m not going to say any more other than the players I look up to are the best in the world, and everyone wants to be like the best in the world.”
Man Utd fans have another Portuguese star who they currently worship at Old Trafford: Bruno Fernandes.
But Fernandes revealed in February 2020 that Ronaldo is one of the reasons why he joined United.
“I’m a Cristiano Ronaldo fan and he’s a player I’ve always followed,” he told Sky Sports, per AS. “When Cristiano burst on to the scene here in Manchester, he spent a good chunk of his early career here and enjoyed so much success.
“That’s why it was a dream of mine to play for Manchester United.”
Justin Kluivert’s dad, Patrick, was a top player - but the Netherlands international is another massive Ronaldo fan.
“For what he is on and off the pitch, my idol is Cristiano Ronaldo,” he told DAZN, per Goal. “I’ve admired him since I was a child and I still follow him, but I don’t have a photo with him.”
Maybe one day, Justin.
After signing for Manchester United in May 2015, Memphis Depay revealed Ronaldo was his footballing inspiration.
“It’s an honour to have a name like that but you have to be real and I am down to earth,” Depay told BBC Sport. “He is my idol and a big, big player – maybe the biggest in the world. I watched him a lot. I look at his free-kicks and how he moves.”
Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka wants to give himself the best chance of fulfilling his potential by copying Ronaldo’s mentality.
“Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Saka, per Goal, when asked who his football idol is. “I love his mentality. He always wants to be the best, is always working hard on and off the pitch and trying to make his body the best.
“When he gets on the pitch he performs with full confidence and full personality and shows why he’s one of the best players to ever play football.
“I wouldn’t say I have his attitude as we are two different players, he is unique, but I try to look at him and take the good things from his game and one of the good things from his game is his mentality.
“He’s always focused, always working and I try to do that as well.”
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